Why You Should Always Mix Your Streusel Topping With A Fork

The cousin of the crumble, crisp, and cobbler, the best streusel can turn a basic coffee cake, muffin, or fruit pie into a splendid, textural treat. To take your buttery, golden, and melt-in-the-mouth streusel to the next level, you should always mix your topping with a fork — instead of a processor or whisk — to create perfect nubbly, nuggets of goodness.

While it's true that some streusel recipes call for pulsing the ingredients in a processor until crumbly, it's very easy to accidentally overmix the flour and butter; just a couple of seconds too long and your crumbly topping will turn into a gummy paste instead of a rubbly mixture with those tasty irregular sized clumps you're looking for. If you're following a streusel recipe that uses cooled melted butter instead of cubed, cold butter, there's a bigger risk of this occurring.

The problem with an overmixed streusel is that it becomes extra crisp and compact in the oven instead of crumbly and light. Using a fork to combine the dry ingredients with the butter gives you greater control when it comes to attaining the perfect nubby texture, which lies somewhere in the middle between the sandy and wet stages. Furthermore, because the fork is cold, it won't heat and soften the butter in the same way as using your warm hands would.

How to use a fork to mix streusel topping

To make streusel with a fork, put your dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar, and oats, in a large bowl along with cubes of cold butter (you may also like to include warming spices, like cinnamon, or chopped nuts to make a robust topping with greater textural interest). Press the tines of the fork down on the butter to work it into the flour and sugar in the same way as you'd use a pastry cutter. Keep clawing the ingredients together until there are no dry spots left in the mixture — you should be left with a chunky, clumpy textured streusel that will be both crispy and crumbly once baked. This slow and steady technique will take more time than using a processor but it will give you a better command over the final consistency of your topping, preventing you from overworking it.

Scatter your nubbly topping on baked fruit, coffee cake, or muffins to lend them a deliciously sweet finish. You could even make a batch to pop in the fridge for later or keep a mix of the dry ingredients in a jar in your pantry, ready to be combined with butter whenever the mood strikes to make a fast dessert. Pair your crumbly layer of vanilla-scented crumb topping with the softness of a delicate sponge or apple loaf for an unmatched, comforting slice of heaven.